Pubdate: Thu, 22 Jul 2004
Source: Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB)
Copyright: 2004 Winnipeg Free Press
Author: Tom Ford
Note: Tom Ford is managing editor of The Issues Network
Cited: Canadians for Safe Access
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - Canada)


THE federal government, it appears, can't manage the growth and
distribution of pot - even though it controls all key respects of the

Ottawa decides what is legal in the marijuana business and what is
not. In 2000, Health Canada decided to give a five-year, $5.5 million
contract to Prairie Plant Systems to grow pot in an abandoned Flin
Flon Manitoba mine and supply it to people who need the drug for
approved medical purposes.

The company's first batch did not exactly get rave reviews. Nearly a
third of those who got the government dope returned it. It was ugly,
bad tasting, not strong enough and cost way too much. "High school
students in a cupboard could grow a product that is better and safer,"
Philippe Lucas, director of Canadians for Safe Access, told Canadian

This month, the company's second batch, shipped after May 21, also got
some criticism. "It's no good," Marco Renda, 45, of Dundalk, Ont.,
told Canadian Press. "I took two puffs and I put it out. It had a
chemical taste to it. It didn't taste right to me and it didn't burn
properly. It had no effect."

Before we beat up too much on Prairie Plant Systems, we should admit
that growing and distributing government dope involves a lot of problems.

Chief among them: no person in the marijuana operation will admit to
using it. That's a big communications challenge. Brent Zettl,
president of Prairie Plant Systems, tries to get around it by saying,
"I know we've been tarred and feathered...but we're following the
direction of Health Canada."

Mr. Zettl, however, can't promote his product like others in the
happiness business. Don't expect Prime Minister Paul Martin, as
chairperson of Flin Flon Gold, to give the product a ringing
endorsement. There'll be no talk of "family recipes" as there is with
Sleeman's beer. I don't even expect Mr. Zettl to explain in a TV ad
that "it tastes terrible, but it works."

Mr. Martin can't call up some of his competitors - the Mafia,
Colombian drug czars or Asian gangs who run suburban grow houses in
Canada - and ask them about some of his production problems.

Testimonials are pretty much out of the picture. Just imagine
Conservative leader Stephen Harper saying in an ad: "A couple of tokes
of Flin Flon Gold and I forget all the problems of minority
government. I even forget Ralph Klein."

Taste tests in shopping malls are a no-go. So are family tours to the
production site. And the United States has made it clear that even a
few export sales south of the border will result in a massive
retaliation that will make it impossible for even your Granny Janet to
get to Hawaii.

You won't see the name Flin Flon Gold on racing cars, car drivers'
suits or the programs of cultural organizations such as the Manitoba
Chamber Orchestra. The federal government should have known that
growing marijuana is not an easy job. Years ago, it planted a plot of
pot at the Central Experimental Farm near downtown Ottawa. There's so
little to do in Ottawa, that cars lined up just to drive around the
plot and watch marijuana grow.

In order to appear to be in charge, the feds brought in guards and
attack dogs and put up a big fence.

What happened to the pot? The feds didn't know what to do with it, so
they burned much of it in a field, a solution that didn't amount to
much, except that it gave the farm's cows a terrific high.

The people of Flin Flon can only hope for something similar. 
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